by DAVE PEDERSEN
On the way to winning his third wrestling tournament title in three tries this season, Rockford junior Brad Johnson cleared the 100-win milestone for his career.
Johnson won three more matches to claim the championship at 138 pounds in Saturday’s Brooklyn Center tournament, improving to 14-1 overall.
The other high place winner at BC was Sasha Galka in third at 145, improving to 13-8 on the season. Defending state champ Ty Griffin is out with a sprained knee. The junior earned his 100 win earlier this season.
Johnson also won tourney titles at Melrose and Maple Grove this season. His only loss was to a rated wrestler from Benilde-St. Margaret’s in a dual meet. He now has 100 wins with a year and a half to go.
“Brad has a shot to go to state like any seasoned veteran,” said coach Nick Peterson. “He is a very methodical wrestler who does not put himself in too many bad situations. Mentally, he is locked in this season.”
Johnson is enjoying his smooth sailing this season after experiencing some rough waters at times the past four seasons on varsity.
“Rockford had nobody at 103 pounds so they put me in there,” recalls Johnson about joining varsity as a seventh-grader. “It really helped to get experience, making me realize I had to sharpen up on a few things.”
After winning 17 matches his first season, Johnson won 22 the next but missed half the year due to injury. He also was hurt prior to sections in ninth grade and could not compete at sections. Last year Johnson placed fourth in a tough class at sections, going 23-15 overall.
Johnson started wrestling in second grade. He is two grades behind his brother Zach, who competed at state last season.
“This year I feel I have more body muscle and I am more confident,” said Johnson about his strong start to the season. “I am good on my feet and can ride opponents longer.”
Winning most of his matches by pins, Johnson says he takes whatever opening he gets as early as possible in the match. He adds how his endurance has increased after playing summer and fall soccer.
Another help is having a state champion as your training partner. Ty Griffin won the crown as a sophomore last season. The two are close in weight classes where they can push each other in practice.
“I think wrestling is a tough sport,” said Johnson. “Hard practices take a lot out of you physically, as does trying to cut weight. It makes you mentally tough, setting you up to be a leader in other sports. Once you do wrestling everything else in life seems easier.”
Johnson says he learned much last season watching Griffin and John Redepenning win state titles for Rockford.
“They had so much motivation to work hard and I realized I needed to do the same to get to state,” said the Rocket junior. “I worked out more in the summer to get in better shape and played soccer.”
Redepenning set the school record for wins last year with 164. Peterson said the mark is not out of site for either Johnson or Griffin.
“Brad has always been a smart wrestler,” notes the coach. “Physically, this year he has taken the next step from being average to being one of the best.”
Contact Dave Pedersen at [email protected]